These types of tumours arise in the cells that form eggs within the ovaries, and tend to be found in younger women. There are a number of different subtypes of germ cell tumour, which means each subtype is quite rare, overall they represent around five per cent of ovarian tumours. Treatment should take place at a centre with expertise in dealing with this particular type of ovarian tumour. The majority of germ cell tumours (60-70 per cent) are diagnosed at Stage I. For early stage disease surgery alone may be sufficient, and for later stage disease this may be combined with chemotherapy.
There are several different subtypes, which can behave and respond differently to treatment:
Dysgerminoma tumours most commonly affect women of reproductive age.
Ovarian teratomas are a type of germ cell tumour. There are two main types of teratoma tumour – mature and immature.
Immature ovarian teratoma tumours are usually diagnosed before the early 20s. This type of cancer is rare and can usually be treated with surgery and chemotherapy. In most cases the removal of the affected ovary is necessary, however you can still retain your fertility as the other ovary and uterus (womb) are left alone. See younger women section.
Mature tumours (sometimes called a dermoid cyst) are most commonly diagnosed in women aged between their teenage years and 40s. The cyst is normally present at birth, but grows very slowly and so may not be noticeable until much later. These cysts can usually be removed via surgery; the type of operation you received will depend on your age, the size of the cyst and whether cancer is suspected. Your specialist will advise on the options for your individual situation. Mature teratomas are usually benign conditions, cured by surgery alone.
Ovarian yolk sac tumour (OYST)
Yolk sac tumour (YST) of the ovary, also known as endodermal sinus tumour, is a primitive malignant germ cell tumour (GCT) that occurs in girls and young women. Treatment usually consists of surgery to remove the primary tumour. Chemotherapy is also given. In young women, fertility-sparing surgery can sometimes be performed, in order to preserve the possibility of pregnancy later on. See younger women section.
Mixed germ cell tumour (MGCT)
Malignant tumours of the ovary comprising of two or more types of germ cell tumours.
Other types of germ cell ovarian tumours
Monodermal and highly specialised
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Last reviewed: May 2016
Next review: April 2019